BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – A long-range strike by Eli Crognale proved the difference as Birmingham Legion FC took a 3-1 victory against Indy Eleven on Sunday evening at BBVA Field to push the visitors closer to elimination from contention for the 2021 USL Championship Playoffs.
The hosts made a bright start as in just the fourth minute Prosper Kasim forced a good save from Indy goalkeeper Jordan Farr with a shot from 30 yards to the bottom-right corner that Farr managed to turn away. In the eighth minute, though, there was little Farr could do as Ryan James controlled a throw-in from the left and slipped a pass to Neco Brett at the top-left corner of the penalty area, from where the Jamaican forward curled a perfect finish into the top-right corner of the net for his 60th regular season goal in the Championship.
Legion FC continued to control more of the game after taking the lead, and it wasn’t until the 31st minute that Indy had its first real look at goal as recent signing Emmanuel Ledesma – making his debut – had a long-range effort that went wide of the right post. Three minutes before halftime, however, the visitors leveled as Nick Moon received a pass in from the right flank from Ledesma, and his cutback cross found Nicky Law for a first-time finish into the roof of the net.
The visitors went close to taking the lead in the 57th minute as a corner kick from the left by Ledesma found fellow Argentine Manuel Arteaga at the top of the six-yard area only for his header to go just wide of the right post. Law was then denied his second as he broke onto a pass by Arteaga two minutes later as Legion FC’s Matt VanOekel made a good save to parry the ball away to safety.
Birmingham threatened to regain the lead with 21 minutes to go as Haiti international Zach Herivaux hit a curling first-time shot from 25 yards that was claimed by Farr, but in the 74th minute the hosts struck as Crognale controlled an attempt to clear at the top of the penalty area with his chest 30 yards from goal and unleashed an outstanding half-volleyed finish into the left corner of the net for his second goal of the season.
Indy created a chance to level again two minutes later as Gordon Wild’s free kick from the left was headed on target by Arteaga as VanOekel made a good reflex save and then covered the rebound, while Mikey Lopez almost added an insurance goal less than a minute later for the hosts as his shot from the left channel to the top-right corner was met by an excellent save from Farr. The Indy goalkeeper came up with another big save with five minutes to go as he kept out a shot by James from the left side of the penalty area.
Legion FC wrapped up the game deep in stoppage time, though, as after Indy pushed everyone including Farr up for a late corner kick to try and equalize, the hosts broke out and Jake Rufe delivered an empty-net shot from 10 yards inside his own half to ice the game as Legion FC kept pace with Louisville City FC at the top of the Central Division standings.
USLChampionship.com Man of the Match
Mikey Lopez, Birmingham Legion FC – Lopez had a solid game on the left side for the hosts, completing 51 of 60 passes and recording 10 recoveries while also winning 6 of 9 duels and 3 of 5 tackles.
BHM – Neco Brett (Ryan James) 8’
IND – Nicky Law (Nick Moon) 42’
BHM – Eli Crognale 74’
BHM – Jake Rufe (Anderson Asiedu) 90+4’